Introspection, Recoveries And Upswings

Updated: Dec 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
Consumer Is The King
It was the year of the consumer in the Indian telecommunication sector. The year started with a cut in National Long Distance (NLD) rates by more than 50 per cent and the prices kept tumbling down in all telecom services through the year.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited gave the Republic day gift to the users by reducing NLD rates in January. The International Long Distance (ILD) tariffs also came down substantially, thanks to the entry of private operators like Bharti and Data Access in ILD space. Leased Lines were also made cheaper by 30 per cent. The entry of fourth cellular operators like Bharti in Mumbai and IDEA in Delhi and freebies offered by the new operators also kept the cellular subscribers in good humour.

The privatisation of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited in favour of the Tatas was a major corporate event. Besides, Tata Teleservices also rolled out its basic services in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

The controversy over the Wireless in Local Loop (WLL) services continued to remain alive and the legal cases kept both cellular and WLL operators busy in courts.

The Indian telecom market, however, remained almost insulated from the troubles in global telecom sector and the subscriber base kept going up by the month.

The Worst Is Over
The Indian information technology (IT) industry witnessed an upswing beginning June 2002, thanks to the boom in the IT-enabled services (ITES) sector and the rise in offshore development activities.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Wipro bagged the largest offshore development deals in the software industry. TCS bagged a $100 million deal from GE, while Wipro and TCS bagged a project of $70 million.

Both software and hardware companies showed a slow but steady recovery. As in the first quarter ending June, companies like Infosys, Mphasis, Aptech, Zensar, Geometric Software, Digital Globalsoft, Hexaware Technologies and Moser Baer witnessed an increase in their net profits. The hardware industry posted positive growth of 15 per cent in PC sales.

2002 exerted constant pressure on pricing in both software and hardware industries. The software industry also saw a drop in billing rates.

A major announcement was the entry of pure play IT companies into the ITES arena. This includes software giants like Infosys with its ITES division, Progeon, TCS with Intelenet, Wipros acquisition of Spectramind, NIIT and Patni Computers.

Flavours From Overseas
After all the ripples that Kaun Banega Crorepati and the K soaps created in 2001, 2002 drew a complete blank on the programming front. Instead, the highlight this year was movies. While television channels bought movie rights at unheard of rates, mainstream cinema saw a series of box-office disasters. Aamir Khans Lagaan missed the Oscar, but remained in the headlines. Indo-phoren flavours added to the masala. Monsoon Wedding and Bend It Like Beckham showed the way to a newgen pack. For the first time, India saw a full-blown film bazaar at the international film festival in Delhi.

Cricket kept broadcasters busy through the year. Sony Entertainment Television sprang a surprise when it won the 2003 World Cup Cricket rights for over $250 million.

A government policy was announced to allow 26 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the print media in news and current affairs publications and 74 per cent FDI in speciality journals.

The Cable TV Network Amendment Bill 2002 to introduce conditional access systems (CAS) was approved by both houses of Parliament despite stiff opposition from MPs and broadcasters all along. In the new regime, consumers will get to watch what they want and pay for only that.

Mumbai was the hot spot for private FM this year, with five stations up and running. Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai failed to meet launch deadlines.

STAR and NDTV announced the end of their relationship. Both are working full time on starting their own news channels. Among the news channels planned for 2003 are STAR (1), NDTV (2), Aaj Tak (1), Zee (1) and Videocon (1).

2002 saw the launch of DD Bharti. Many channels tried their hand at revamping, including DD, Sahara, Sabe and Zee. Zee even handed back its reins to the Subhash Chandra clan.

Ashu Kumar, Mamuni Das, Nivedita Mookerji & Prachi Verma